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Blackboard Releases Cloud Version of Learn

Education technology company Blackboard has made available a cloud version of its learning management system promised during BbWorld this past summer. The new software-as-a-service version of Blackboard Learn joins the on-premise and managed hosting editions it already sells.

The company is also working with online training firm lynda.com to offer a "building block" that gives users easier access to instruction from the latter company's video library.

In a video about the cloud announcement, Senior Vice President of Product Management Mark Strassman knocked newer LMS offerings in the market that are strictly cloud-based, stating, "Institutions do have different needs and many prefer the unique advantages of self-hosting or managed hosting. So the fact that Blackboard is now able to support those modes of delivery alongside SaaS gives schools unprecedented amount of choice as they decide how they want to work with us on their hosting environments. And we are the only company that can make this offering."

Strassman referenced several advantages of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model: Customers will "always" have "the most recent release of the software"; they will have auto-updates "with no service interruptions"; and the new cloud architecture "scales elastically to support heavy usage and peak periods."

"It's also great for us too," he added. "We can fix bugs and security issues almost immediately, and we can deploy new features rapidly instead of once or twice a year."

The new partnership with lynda.com will result in a new, free extension for Learn that will give students and faculty easier access to the lynda.com collection of business, software and creative skills library of instructional videos. That collection also includes training on Blackboard products. The integration enables instructors to identify appropriate videos in the lynda.com catalog to include in their course pages, allows users to find courses through Learn and track students' progress in Learn's Grade Center and provides single sign-on and direct link options.

"As a former university teacher myself, I was always looking for new ways to engage my students and to give them the tools and materials they needed to excel," said lynda.com Executive Chair and Co-founder Lynda Weinman. The new integration, she added, will make implementation within Blackboard Learn "seamless and easy."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.